Mr. Fixer Upper Contractor with penchant for computers honored as Remodeler of the Year

November 21, 1993|By Lorraine Mirabella | Lorraine Mirabella,Staff Writer

Tinkering with hammers and nails used to be a hobby for Norman Seff, family counselor. But he turned in his clipboard for a tool belt and 20 years later heads his own remodeling company.

Mr. Seff, who counseled runaways, has never regretted his career switch.

It gives him "the ability to create things and see at the end of the day tangible results, to come up with a solution to a problem and see the satisfaction the owners get."

Today, Mr. Seff, 40, is president of Adkim Builders Inc., a Pikesville design-build remodeling company, which is considered by the remodeling industry among the most highly skilled in the state.

The Remodelors Council of the Home Builders Association of Maryland handed out annual awards of excellence this month and bestowed top honors on Mr. Seff. They named him 1993's Remodeler of the Year "for demonstrating the highest level of professionalism, credibility, quality construction and contribution to the remodeling industry."

An Adkim kitchen project captured the attention of the judges -- a group of remodeling contractors from outside the Baltimore area. For an Owings Mills couple, the company transformed a crowded kitchen and family room with dark wallpaper, walnut cabinets and stained pine beams into a bright space where the wife, a gourmet enthusiast, expects to prepare food for dinner parties.

Working with interior designer Tarleton Interiors, space planner Joan Eisenberg of JME Consulting and Wolff Woodworking, Mr. Seff installed French exterior and interior doors and leaded glass-front entry doors to bring in natural light. The team expanded storage and work space and seating around a new bay window in the family room. The remodelers used natural products, granite counter tops, hand-painted ceramic tile and custom moldings, covering the foyer floor in marble, creating warmth in the kitchen and family room with hardwood floors.

Throughout the project, design challenges arose. First, the owners asked the builder to demolish the original kitchen only partially, so they could continue cooking meals. Adkim also had to work around the husband's dust allergies, covering all ducts, sealing construction areas from the rest of the home and cleaning thoroughly at the end of each workday.

With the help of computerized project schedules informing all sub-contractors and craftsmen, the remodeling team finished on time -- after planning for five months and building for two more -- and within the $85,000 kitchen/family room budget.

Mr. Seff -- who first learned cabinetmaking, then home remodeling from the frame out -- is more likely to reach for a floppy disc than a circular saw these days, as computers have become an integral part of his business. He has devised a system that helps manage time, keep track of project schedules and vendors and send information to subcontractors at the click of a button.

Mr. Seff urges other remodeling companies to computerize as well. He works as a consultant helping others set up systems and conducts computer seminars for remodelers.

"There's a real intimidation factor with remodelers," Mr. Seff says. "They're far behind the technology and what's available to them."

Mr. Seff's career has strayed off course from his early aspirations. He worked as a counselor for runaways in 1975, after graduating from the University of Maryland. In college, he also studied cabinetmaking.

He left counseling after only a year to pursue a business of his own as a cabinetmaker. After two years, he shifted to remodeling, first building decks and small additions, then buying and moving into a rundown house and completely renovating it.

Mr. Seff and his wife, Jann, an interior designer, live in Pikesville with children Adam, 12, and Kimberly, 10. The couple heads a business of eight employees.


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